We are studying Jonah 3 for Sunday, May 30: the imaginative, over the top vision of successful prophetic ministry: universal repentance, and divine forbearance. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to ask ourselves, or discuss in class:
The people and animals of Nineveh in this story give us a model of instantaneous, complete repentance. If we could imagine that kind of repentance in our own world, who would we want to see repent? Of what? That is, what would that look like?
What do we imagine others would like us to repent of?
What does it mean to repent, would we say? That is, what does it include, what counts as repentance, do we think? What doesn’t?
What does the story tell us about God? [Here, it might help us to remember that the story seems to have been composed after the exile. How does that context affect how we understand this story, and especially what it tells us about God?]
[More speculative, maybe.] How do we learn about God? I mean, actually – where do our ideas about God come from, how do our experiences and the experiences of others seem to contribute to what we know, or think we know, about God?
[Much more philosophical, maybe.] How do we know that what we know about God is correct? How do we correct our misconceptions about God?
Most of the Biblical studies sources we rely on read the book of Jonah as a work of fiction. What difference does it make to us, or to the lesson of the book, if the book is fiction or non-fiction?
Image: “Spannende Lektüre,” Walther Firle, 1929, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.